Online Giving on #GivingTuesday

#Giving Tuesday has to be one of the coolest “day” ideas in recent memory, but as the day ticks away, the question remains where to give?  Because there are only about 8 hours left in Giving Tuesday, if you’re going to give something today, at least to someone you don’t know, it’s probably going to be online. And in that respect I thought I would offer a few

But first, while I am in suggesting mode, a thought about giving in general: Too much of our giving is about making us feel better; not enough is about really helping people.  Part of growing up (spiritually speaking) is about trying to move beyond this bad habit.  Giving usually occurs through freely offering our time, energy, or money.  We often call refer to the latter as “charity” but the word “charity” is related to a particular Greek word for a special kind of love, ἀγάπη, or agape.

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis reminds us how agape, or “charity love” differs from affectionate love, brotherly love, or romantic love.  What Lewis calls charity actually replicates the self-giving nature of Divine love.  It gives without concern for self; agape is focused on the well-being of the other.  In this respect, we are meant to be a chip off the old Block.  Giving should not be about our own feelings whether they be guilt or the “warm glow” or about what we think should give or what would be fun to give.  Genuine giving is simply all about others and what is good (for them). This is how we need to think about our giving on #GivingTuesday.

 In this light, the following suggestions for online giving are backed by rigorous evidence of transformational effects on beneficiaries.

 Suggestion #1: Wheelchairs for Nigeria.   In 2003 northern Nigeria was plagued by rumors that the polio vaccine had been tainted by Western sources to cause infertility.   The unsurprising result has been thousands of cases of polio that have rendered victims paralyzed, incapacitated, and often shunned by society.  A donation of $150 buys a wheelchair that is likely to have transformative effects on the recipient.  Unable to carry out an impact study in northern Nigeria due to the presence of the terrorist group Boko Haram, we carried out a study on the impact of wheelchairs with similar organizations in Ethiopia.  What we found was that that those given access to a wheelchair devoted 1.75 more hours per day to work, 1.40 fewer hours per day to street begging, and they realized a 77.5 per cent increase in income. I’ve become of big fan of wheelchairs.

Suggestion #2: I’ve also become a big fan of international child sponsorship, especially when sponsorship occurs through Compassion.  I’ll be honest, our family sponsors a couple of children and it does give us a warm glow, but this is not why we sponsor them.  We sponsor them because sponsorship has transformative impacts on sponsored children.  Our recent six-country study on the long-run impacts of child sponsorship shows that sponsorship increases the probability of secondary school graduation by 45%, the probability that a child has a white-collar job by 35%, and earned income in adulthood by about 20%.   Sponsored children are more likely to live in better houses as adults and be church and community leaders.  At $38 per month, this is an expensive intervention, but it pays big dividends in the lives of children.  Go for it.

Suggestion #3: You may be concerned that in-kind giving or even child sponsorship is too constraining for the recipient. Maybe this is true. Perhaps the poor know best how to help themselves.  Indeed there is evidence to support the positive impacts of direct and unconditional cash transfers that make this a great gift choice for #GivingTuesday.  By giving via GiveDirectly, 91% of your donation goes through the web and is zapped directly into the cell phone-based savings accounts of impoverished East Africans.  Results from a study that is forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics show dramatic increases in household consumption and food security along with measurable improvements in psychological well-being of recipients–and no increase in spending on temptation goods like alcohol or cigarettes. It’s hard to go wrong with GiveDirectly.

Probably like you, I struggle with a tendency to offer my time, energy, and money in ways that make me feel good.  But may any joy we feel on #GivingTuesday be rooted in the knowledge that we are genuinely doing good to those we wish to help.

Follow AcrossTwoWorlds on Twitter @BruceWydick.


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